The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt firm on graffiti ban, Anil flip-flops
Party boss has second thoughts on defiance

Calcutta, Feb. 27: The government today emphasised its resolve to stop defacement of walls across the state, though signals emanating from the state CPM headquarters were to the contrary.

Not long before home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy announced that the city police commissioner and the state police chief had been told to enforce the ban under the West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas made it clear that the party was in no mood to go by the government's orders.

Biswas would 'officially withdraw' his comments a little later, possibly after having spoken to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Roy said in Writers' Buildings since the notification banning graffiti has been issued, it is the government's responsibility to implement it. 'We'll ask the police to get those responsible for defacing the walls to restore them to their originally state,' Roy said. 'In case this is not possible, we'll ask the municipality or even the police to clean up the walls.'

After receiving a missive from the government, police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee said he would call a mee-ting of representatives of all political parties and urge them to keep the walls clean.

Earlier in the day, Biswas reacted strongly when a journalist told him that state chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb had said the police would not allow defacement of walls anywhere in the state.

The CPM leader said he wouldn't listen to anybody other than the Election Commission as he believes it is the only authority having jurisdiction over such matters. It is another matter that the commission cannot issue directives till the polls are announced and that, till then, party cadre can deface the walls.

Biswas added: 'The police are expected to look after law and order. Cleaning up walls is not the job of the police. I have sent a letter to the EC seeking clarifications on wall writing and citing earlier EC orders. We will go by the EC orders. We will not comply with any other order.'

Asked to elaborate, Biswas said he was not aware of what the chief secretary had said and that he would wait for a reply from the commission. 'I don't know about a chief secretary's order. The chief minister will handle what the chief secretary said. I will talk only with the chief election commissioner,' the state CPM secretary asserted.

'If I do not get a reply from the EC, things will remain as they are,' Biswas remarked.

Asked to explain what would remain the same, he said: 'There's no question of explaining. I told you, things will remain as they are.'

According to Biswas, campaign is an integral part of polls and his party cannot sit back and relax. 'We have told party workers to launch our campaign as it is part of the poll process. Thirty lakh volunteers have engaged themselves in campaign work. Campaigning will not stop.'

However, minutes later Biswas learnt that the chief secretary had not made any comment on wall writing and he decided to 'officially withdraw' what he had said. Till that time, the home secretary had not said anything either.

'I reacted to a question which was based on wrong information and hence was wholly untrue. So, you should not report my comments as I had been supplied incorrect information by you. If you still write it, I will have to move court,' Biswas asserted.

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